Adverse impact - educational impact and special education


trying to survive....
I know that in order to qualify for speical education services a child must have a disability/ties which interferes with learning and has an educational impact.

So many of our kids are bright and are functioning at least "on grade level", which often "demonstrates" no educational impact, therefore make them "inelligible" for services--at least this is what the school system "tries" to say.

Please help me find wording which shows why our kids should be eligible for services. Also, if they can be eligible, does it have to be under SED.

At this point, difficult child, doesn't need services, but I continue to see kids denied for services because of no educational impact. My difficult child has a strong IQ...but is clearly at risk for learning disabilities...and or may requires services based on his diagnoses.

At a minimum, he could/should recieve a 504 due to accommodations provided by his teachers. far I'm ok with no 504...but the time will come.

Please help and clarify--


trying to survive....
I did just read over some of Wrights Law and Learning Disability (LD) issues. My question is more related to mood disorder/adhd/anxiety issues which interferes with general school functioning, but appears to be no educational impact because they are still at grade level.


New Member
I want to know the same thing. JK clearly needs services (ADHD with anxiety issues), but is ahead of grade level in all subject areas. This causes him (and me) more pain than you know. He was barely functioning in his class last year - no one cared.


New Member
Sheila just posted this on another thread that I have.
This change just came into affect on Aug 14th, 2006 I think? Too bad I read that on the thread yesterday shortly after my ARD meeting- I would have loved to have shown them this change!

Anyway, here it is:
the regs state, "Section 300.101(c) has been revised
to clarify that a free appropriate public
education (FAPE) must be available to
any individual child with a disability
who needs special education and
related services, even though the child
has not failed or been retained in a
course, and is advancing from grade to

That's a pretty big change and will help a lot of people I bet!


This goes along with the change that "discrepancy formulae" may not be used to qualify for Learning Disability (LD).

It can be done--without the change in the law, but the change definitely helps. I got my ex-difficult child qualified at 11 with him at grade level in reading (which he hated and would not do--but could do it on a standardized test) somewhat above grade level in other subjects, and far above grade level in math, where he remained through taking calculus in high school.


1) his self-esteem was very low--he made open derogatory comments about himself
2) he had no friends
3) he was bullied
4) he was close to school refusal--many days he did not go at all
5) he refused to go to gym and definitely would not take his clothes off in the locker room to change into gym clothes.
6) he would not use the bathroom at school
7) he would not go into the lunchroom
8) he would not eat at school because others were watching him (but he loved to eat in restaurants with us)
9) he wouldn't work with certain teachers
10) he was anxious off the charts (which was due in part to 3 above which then caused 4, 5, 6 and 7)

and many more. How can such a child be making "adequate progress" and the above behaviors have no "negative educational impact?" So he qualified, EASILY, but he qualified as SED. I have no problem with that: he is not Learning Disability (LD) but had major emotional problems so what else would he qualify for? I do not take the position that even though major depression is a medical diagnosis, he should have qualified for OHI. Look at his behaviors. The only thing he missed was psychosis on the list of SED qualifiers.

He got some significant help in 7th and 8th grades. We crashed with the high school (and because he added suicidal to the list) and ended up placing in EGBS at our own expense. However, it is possible to get services for at grade level (or above) children who have major problems as mine did. Also it is important to note that EBD does NOT mean going to a “alternative school” for big time actors-out. My son was entirely included. He just had some very unusual accommodations which included half days and other things pertaining to his beliefs (he would not dress up as a “dead white man” for a project; he would not read about dropping the atomic bomb on Japan because he believed it was racist and never would have been dropped on Germany, etc., etc.—having a bright difficult child can be a problem) These accommodations had to be written into his IEP and were supported by the clinical staff. The teachers didn’t like it but they did come up with alternative assignments LOL—he ended up dressing up as King Sejeung—a 15th century Korean monarch. They thought they were all easy child because they had added women and African Americans to their list—but no Asians—O well, now they have a better list; and difficult child did not have to be a white person.

It IS a problem that the brighter the child is, the longer it will take for the grades to sink (usually) but the changes in the law are supposed to remedy this at least in theory. A child should not have to be destroyed by failure to get services.



trying to survive....
So basically--when the IEP team decides that the child is not eligible for special education because there is "no educational impact" they are new laws which prevent this from being the final decision maker.

Is it fair to assume that a child must have some type of diagnosis and/or stuggling behavirally/emotionally or for them to consider eligiblity. In our case-difficult child requires certain behavoral interventions in order for him to be successful. The teacher can implement these strategies, but he is much more successful if there is another adult in the room to assist with this process or assist with the other kids during his high demand time. Without this support...things can sprial and behaviors can escalate out of control. To me these interventions can eventually be consider a special education need. difficult child grades are "fine", but he is not...he requires more support---

What about the child who is struggling in school, but has a low average IQ and is performing equal to his ability --say a child has an IQ of 75-85 and has academic standard scores within this same range. Historically this child is not eligible because he/she is performing to his/her ability. These are the kids that really struggle and will continue to struggle, but are not eligible....does this continue to be the case??

Some of this information relates to my own personal experiences and some relate to my difficult child, but I'm really also interested in gathering more information so I can be better informed.

As I've said, I have not done the IEP route yet...but will if/when needed.


in my opinion there has to be adverse educational impact in order to qualify for an IEP -- whether the impact is behavorial (rememberting that it includes "behavior impedes the
child’s learning or that of others") or academic.

It's going to take a while to get some of the kinks worked out of the new 2004 regs. There's still lots of room for misinterpretation and disagreements....

A diagnosis of any kind does not automatically make the student eligible for an IEP.

What about the child who is struggling in school, but has a low average IQ and is performing equal to his ability --say a child has an IQ of 75-85 and has academic standard scores within this same range. Historically this child is not eligible because he/she is performing to his/her ability. These are the kids that really struggle and will continue to struggle, but are not eligible....does this continue to be the case??

Good question. SEA's still have some ability to formulate criteria for eligibility. Based on what I've read, eligibility should be based more on educational need now and not a "magic" formula. Interestingly however, Texas had more than one method of qualifying a student for an IEP. Presenting a "significant discrepancy" wasn't the only way. I doubt Texas was alone in this regard.

But, I suspect there will have to be legal rulings pertinent to IDEA 2004 before things become more clear in some areas.

If we no longer look for discrepancies between IQ and achievement, how is the student who has a very low IQ, yet performs in the normal range, ever identified? In other words, will that student get intervention so that he or she can perform to his or her ability? Or, will the teacher assume that because the student is in the normal range, everything is okay?

If the student is performing in the “normal” range, why would s/he need intervention? In your example the student would actually be exceeding what would be expected on the basis of his/her IQ. A problem-solving approach is “needs” based, with “needs” referring to academic needs irrespective of “ability.” For example, take two students who are both achieving far below academic standards. The first child has an average IQ and exhibits a discrepancy. The second child’s IQ is below average and is commensurate with his/her academic achievement. In a discrepancy model, only the first child would likely receive compensatory education. The second child might be considered “performing at his/her ability.” In a problem-solving, needs based model, both children would receive intervention due to similar academic needs. The research is quite clear that both types of students respond similarly to quality interventions (i.e., there is no evidence that the child with the discrepancy has instructional needs that are somehow unique to the fact that he or she exhibits a discrepancy). In this model, all children are considered on the basis of educational need, not on the basis of some ability threshold.

Additional Procedures for Identifying
Children With Specific Learning
§ 300.307 Specific learning disabilities.
(a) General. A State must adopt,
consistent with § 300.309, criteria for
determining whether a child has a
specific learning disability as defined in
§ 300.8(c)(10). In addition, the criteria
adopted by the State—
(1) Must not require the use of a
severe discrepancy between intellectual
ability and achievement for determining
whether a child has a specific learning
disability, as defined in § 300.8(c)(10);
(2) Must permit the use of a process
based on the child’s response to
scientific, research-based intervention;
(3) May permit the use of other
alternative research-based procedures
for determining whether a child has a
specific learning disability, as defined
in § 300.8(c)(10).
(b) Consistency with State criteria. A
public agency must use the State criteria
adopted pursuant to paragraph (a) of
this section in determining whether a
child has a specific learning disability.
(Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1221e–3; 1401(30);

§ 300.309 Determining the existence of a
specific learning disability.
(a) The group described in § 300.306
may determine that a child has a
specific learning disability, as defined
in § 300.8(c)(10), if—
(1) The child does not achieve
adequately for the child’s age or to meet
State-approved grade-level standards in
one or more of the following areas,
when provided with learning
experiences and instruction appropriate
for the child’s age or State-approved
grade-level standards:
(i) Oral expression.
(ii) Listening comprehension.
(iii) Written expression.
(iv) Basic reading skill.
(v) Reading fluency skills.
(vi) Reading comprehension.
(vii) Mathematics calculation.
(viii) Mathematics problem solving.
(2)(i) The child does not make
sufficient progress to meet age or State approved
grade-level standards in one
or more of the areas identified in
paragraph (a)(1) of this section when
using a process based on the child’s
response to scientific, research-based
intervention; or
(ii) The child exhibits a pattern of
strengths and weaknesses in
performance, achievement, or both,
relative to age, State-approved grade level
standards, or intellectual
development, that is determined by the
group to be relevant to the identification
of a specific learning disability, using
appropriate assessments, consistent
with §§ 300.304 and 300.305; and
(3) The group determines that its
findings under paragraphs (a)(1) and (2)
of this section are not primarily the
result of—
(i) A visual, hearing, or motor
(ii) Mental retardation;
(iii) Emotional disturbance;
(iv) Cultural factors;
(v) Environmental or economic
disadvantage; or
(vi) Limited English proficiency.
(b) To ensure that under achievement
in a child suspected of having a specific
learning disability is not due to lack of
appropriate instruction in reading or
math, the group must consider, as part
of the evaluation described in
§§ 300.304 through 300.306—
(1) Data that demonstrate that prior to,
or as a part of, the referral process, the
child was provided appropriate
instruction in regular education settings,
delivered by qualified personnel; and
(2) Data-based documentation of
repeated assessments of achievement at
reasonable intervals, reflecting formal
assessment of student progress during
instruction, which was provided to the
child’s parents.
(c) The public agency must promptly
request parental consent to evaluate the
child to determine if the child needs
special education and related services,
and must adhere to the timeframes
described in §§ 300.301 and 300.303,
unless extended by mutual written
agreement of the child’s parents and a
group of qualified professionals, as
described in § 300.306(a)(1)—
(1) If, prior to a referral, a child has
not made adequate progress after an
appropriate period of time when
provided instruction, as described in
paragraphs (b)(1) and (b)(2) of this
section; and
(2) Whenever a child is referred for an
(Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1221e–3; 1401(30);


It is my understanding that there has to be a negative educational impact also BUT NOW, SD can't "wait for total failure," which takes a long time in some kids, as the ONLY indicator of negative impact.

SED is somewhat of a special case because it can remit and reappear depending on biochemistry and/or stressors. This "stresses" SDs because they like disabilities in neat little boxes--not coming and going at various times. Nevertheless, one CAN make a case for negative eimpact VIA emotional dsyfuntion. I never made a big deal about which medical diagnosis my ex-difficult child had. It was obvious he was depressed and anxious. Need they know more? The school should focus on behaviors that impede educational progress in my opinion and write IEPs that address these needs.

MAYBE the new regs will make things easier as Sheila said, but the "filter down" time for changes can be long.



trying to survive....
Thank you all for your responses.

The worry many people feel is that if a child is given a code of SED, then he/she may be asked to leave home school and attend a self-contained class.

Now I believe that it is in the best interest for many kids to be in a smaller self-contained program. Many kids strive in the setting and need to be there....However, before a child is sent out of the mainstream setting I would like to see the school systems exhaust all of their strategies..and supports. I would like to see them implement and manage the behavior intervention plans in the home school.


More input on educational need/adverse impact from .

When Parents & Schools Disagree

Ruth Heitin, Ph.D., Educational Consultant

Print this page

I often tell my clients that if my own parents were alive, they would never understand what I do for a living.

I am an independent educational consultant, and as a private professional I work for parents in seeking appropriate educational services for their children. Far more often than I prefer, I disagree with the schools - something my parents and their generation saw as heresy.

For the past ten years, I have worked with hundreds of families of students with special needs. Every time I think I have seen the most egregious case of educational unenlightenment, another case comes along that is even more disturbing.

As a former teacher, I fully understand the challenges that teachers face. In my opinion, teaching is one of the toughest and most important jobs of all. I have also sat on the other side of the school conference table as a parent. Now, as an educational consultant, I am able to see both viewpoints. And, what I have learned over the past ten years is that while both parents and schools want what is best for children, their constraints and their perspectives will always differ.

What is important to know is that when parents and schools disagree, the ways that they resolve their disagreements depend upon the issues. Federal laws and regulations provide a framework for addressing the needs of special education students. When a child is not suspected of or diagnosed with a disability, the local school district has the right to govern its own programs. Dealing with general education requires politics, dealing with special education requires knowledge of the laws.

The following are some of the ways in which parents and schools disagree when a child is suspected of a disability with suggestions as to how to address these.

Does the student have an educationally-related disability?

Does the child's disability have an impact on his/her educational performance?

Does the child require special education services?

Are the special education services effective?

Does the student have an educationally-related disability?
In my experience, it is a parent's natural inclination to believe that all is right with his/her child. For parents to get to the point of believing that their child could have some kind of problem, they have to have done some serious reflection and data gathering on their own. Once a parent comes to the point of concern that a disability exists, it is incumbent upon the school professionals to take those parents' concerns very seriously.

However, it is also the natural inclination for schools to seek some outside explanation for a child's problems. Often they indulge in believing that the nature of the problem is a simple matter within the parents' control.

The only way to determine if a disability exists with a child is through comprehensive evaluation. The first step in this process is for the parents and school professional to meet to discuss the child in a meeting of professionals called a Child Study Committee or the like, depending upon the school district.

Schools often offer first to try a variety of interventions before doing evaluation, which is tantamount to a trial-and-error method of addressing a child's problems. Why would we try to address a problem without understanding it first? The role of this committee is to ask only if, based on the information available through their normal procedures, there is justification for further evaluation of the child. The school cannot ask parents to gather more information for them first nor can the school make a determination of eligibility for special education at that time; that is the role of another committee.

If the school does agree to do the evaluation, it is important for parents to understand the limitations of any school system in their evaluation.

One of the reasons that I left the school system was to have the opportunity to assess children in the way that I knew was necessary. School employees have little control over the time and the materials at their disposal in order to do evaluations. No matter how good a school professional is at evaluation, it is unlikely that he/she can perform the job as well as someone who is equally qualified in private practice. Private assessments are expensive because of the time that they require, but parents should know that the investment is, in my opinion, generally a wise one.

It is also important for parents to know that whoever does the evaluation is the one who will take the lead in determining the child's needs. The school personnel who do this are too often the same ones who will have to serve the child in their already-too-busy schedules. Having a private evaluator assess the child allows independent determination of the child's issues and needs without any bureaucratic constraints.

Of course, if the school system does the evaluation, and the parents question the results or the methods, they can seek an Independent Educational Evaluation at the school's expense. The down side of this is that it makes an already-protracted evaluation period even longer, requiring months before a child's needs can be appropriately understood and addressed.

Once evaluation is completed the determination can be made as to whether or not a child has a disability. Federal law does not specify the criteria for determining disabilities, that is left to the local school district. And, in my experience, the many local school districts in our area all have different criteria for determining eligibility for special education.

I have spent the past ten years helping parents in the eligibility process, and I can relate hundreds of horror stories about the process. For example, schools have found children not to be learning disabled based on the fact that they demonstrate no processing deficits, but the school has not effectively assessed the processing skills. This is tantamount to saying that a child does not have strep throat, despite all the symptoms, when one has not done a culture. Naturally, I believe that having an educational consultant assist you through the eligibility process for special education is a wise decision.

When the determination is made as to whether a disability exists, it is appropriate to look at this through all appropriate definitions. For school children, two laws address special needs - The Individuals with Disability Education Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

While both federal acts allow provision of special education services, practicality has dictated otherwise. IDEA has federal money attached to it, giving schools some reimbursement for serving special needs children, while Section 504 does not. Any child who is eligible for services under IDEA automatically is eligible under Section 504, but not the reverse. Primarily in practice today, the difference is that those who require special education services are eligible under IDEA while those who require only classroom accommodations rather are eligible under Section 504.

A key point in eligibility is whether the disability has an impact on educational performance and how. For example, some students with asthma are able to control it well while others require special accommodations when it comes to exercise and stress. Only in the latter case would it be necessary to identify the child as disabled educationally.

An important note here is that identifying disabilities in young children presents special challenges that the schools are often unable to manage.

Traditional achievement testing is insensitive with young children for a very good reason. Since achievement is the product of what a child has been taught and how much he/she has learned from that, and since formal instruction is limited in young children, it is very difficult to identify underachievement. In testing young children, information processing testing in areas such as phonemic awareness and rapid naming, for examples, must be relied upon to identify learning disabilities. Schools frequently fail to test these areas and instead rely upon the ineffective traditional test measures in measuring learning issues.

When schools come to the conclusion that a child does not have a disability, they often justify their conclusion by espousing that they do not want to label the child. This presumes that labeling a child is a stigma or a negative factor in some way.

Schools never admit that they are being advised to limit the numbers of students being eligible, but I believe they are. What they fail to see too often is that if one is going to err, it is better to give services than not and miss valuable educational opportunities that cannot be regained.

Does the child's disability have an impact on his/her educational performance?

This is often a contentious area of disagreement between parents and schools. There is no federal definition of educational impact. Nationally, court cases continue to address the question of educational impact of a disability.

In my experience, schools will readily admit educational impact if a student's grades are failing or if the child's disability presents a challenge to them. However, in cases where a child's disability affects them in less conspicuous ways, as is often the case with homework difficulties, schools too often deny any educational impact. However, as long as schools demand homework, they cannot ignore the parents' reports about how the disability affects homework time.

Similarly, when the educational impact is emotionally-related, or even medically-related, schools tend to deny what they cannot see. Parents need to document the impact of the disability as well as they can to offer undeniable evidence.

Keep charts of the time spent on homework or the number of headaches a child experiences. Document the help that the child requires in doing homework. It is harder to ignore data than narrative.

Does the child require special education services?
This question presents a difficult dilemma for the school system. The recent trend to educate all children in the general education classroom has too frequently resulted, in my opinion, in a watered-down system of offering specialized support for children.

Teachers and administrators too often seem to feel that if they admit that a child needs specialized instruction they are admitting their own failure. While it is certainly advantageous for some children to remain in the general education classroom for support, for others it denies them the opportunity for small group and specialized instruction that they need.

Historically, we have always known that children with special needs require specialized instruction, and the earlier the better. Recent research in learning disabilities, however, has articulated this even further.

Children with reading disabilities respond best to systematic, intensive, and specialized instruction. The window of opportunity for best results is to begin such programming before the child reaches his/her ninth birthday. After that, the prognosis for ameliorating the reading disability becomes less optimistic.

Are the special education services effective?
In 1997, when IDEA was reauthorized, an important change was implemented in which schools were required to evaluate special education students' progress as often as they did the progress of general education students. IDEA has long required that progress be evaluated in observable and measurable ways.

I cannot begin to count the number of times that a student's progress is merely observed rather than measured in any way. Independent assessment, school standardized testing, state assessment measures and observational charts are all means of evaluating and measuring progress.

My advice to parents who think that their children are not making sufficient progress: Don't stop in your efforts to improve your child's progress.

Failure to make appropriate progress has devastating and cumulative ramifications.
This year's teacher will not be around to see the implications over time, but parents certainly will be.

Meet Dr. Ruth Heitin

Dr. Ruth Heitin is an independent educational consultant in Northern Virginia. Through Educational Consulting Services, Dr. Heitin offers assessment, advocacy and consultation with parents. She works with teachers, guidance counselors, pediatricians, and other professionals to develop a quality educational programs for children.

Contact Info:

Ruth Heitin, Ph.D.
Educational Consulting Services
100 West Howell Avenue,
Alexandria, VA 22301
Phone: 703-519-7181; Fax: 703-519-4737


I've been following this thread with great interest because we have an Educational Management Team meeting for my difficult child 2 this Thursday. difficult child 2 has been diagnosed by a child psychiatrist with bipolar disorder. However, she has a high IQ, is a hard worker (who puts a lot of pressure on herself) and is a straight-A student. When we had an EMT meeting last spring, the team declared "no educational impact." BUT difficult child 2 requires extended time on homework at least once a week because she holds it all together at school and then completely melts down at home. Her emotional state frequently prevents her from focusing on or even attempting to get her homework completed. She also does not read at all because she says it is too hard for her to focus on it. We are not sure if her emotional state is preventing her from focusing, she has an ADD-like disorder, or she has a language-based learning disability. As the demands of middle school increase -- both in amount and complexity of work -- I am convinced we will see a greater educational impact. But at a tremendous cost to difficult child's already fragile emotional state.

The article above frames the issue nicely. I'm mulling it over in an effort to come up with an effective strategy for our meeting Thursday. Thanks for posting it.


A label of SED or any other label DOES NOT dictate placement. The law REQUIRES that PBS be in place in the regular classroom.

I understand why people fear SED--they fear it because SDs violate the law. I will repeat: my ex-difficult child who was really quite SED, never left the regular class. His educational needs could be met in regular class--minus homework.

However, you do make an interesting point about SD tendencies in this direction: when we crashed with the HS district, the H.O, said it was "inconvenient " to have a student needing German and advanced math and science but have so many special needs.Well gee--sorry to be "inconvenient," but this is his life we are talking about... No one was willing to take me on that ex-difficult child could not take the above subjects because he was Special Education. qualified. In the end, we did not ever sign this IEP but the reasons had to do with his safety as a studetn with major depression in a very large HS with a suicide a year (at least.) I DID get the academic program that was appropriate for his level, i.e., German, advanced math and science, average English and Social Studies--no "special classes" at all. Ex-difficult child refused to go to "resource support" because it was so noisy. He wanted no help and he went to the library just like everyone else during his free periods. You have to know the law to get you your INDIVIDUAL child needs. It's an IEP--and that "I" stands for "individual."

Some kids have greater academic needs than my ex-difficult child. I never said he was a typical kid of any type--not a easy child but also not exactly an acting-out difficult child at school either--just really SED. However, if I have a "crusade" on this board, it is to try to stop schools CAUSING SED kids to fail in order to get services. It is not right--not for smallworld and not for you. Average and above average kids with emotional problems can and should (in my opinion) be qualified for Special Education. It confers tremendous legal protection that many difficult children need badly in high school. This is doubly true for families that must depend on the public school for their children's education.